DID YOU READ

Steve Buscemi on “Interview”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photos: Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller in “Interview,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2007]

Perennial character actor Steve Buscemi is instantly recognizable for his roles in films like “Reservoir Dogs,” “Ghost World” and “The Big Lebowski,” and his indie cred has only been bolstered in the years since his filmmaking debut “Trees Lounge.” Even being in the spotlight, however, Buscemi pretty much loathes being interviewed, which couldn’t be more ironic, considering his fourth directorial feature is the 2007 Sundance drama “Interview.” The former Mr. Pink stars as political journalist Pierre Peters, a curmudgeonly egomaniac who can’t stomach that his editor has put him on the show-biz beat by assigning him to interview self-absorbed soap star Katya (Sienna Miller). Though they predictably clash from the get-go, circumstances force them to spend an evening together in her Manhattan loft, leading to a complex, often antagonistic, and ultimately revealing back-and-forth that leaves them both with their scars exposed… or does it? Based on the 2003 film of the same name by the late Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (who was murdered a year later for his political beliefs), “Interview” is the first installment of what’s intended to be a “Triple Theo” trilogy, a series of New York-based remakes that Van Gogh had planned to direct himself. Buscemi, who will hand off the project’s baton to actor-directors John Turturro and Stanley Tucci, was polite enough to grant an interview, but prefers to let the work speak for itself.

What do you think Van Gogh’s intentions were in remaking his own films?

Well, he loved American films and New York, and he wanted to work there — I think that was the simplest reason. All three films deal primarily with a relationship between a man and woman, essentially two-character pieces, and I think he felt that that would translate well. I don’t know specifically how he talked to actors, but I know he devised this system of shooting with three cameras so that they would always be on camera. He shot the films in sequence so there’d be that continuity, and he did these really long takes so that the actors could develop a rhythm with each other. He was also fond of shooting close-ups first. Typically, the close-ups are the last things that are shot, but by then, the actors are pretty well rehearsed. He was more interested in those unrehearsed performances.

You implement some of these techniques, but the two films still have distinctive tones.

I think it’s partly stylistic, and also a cultural thing. For me, the original is a little bit more intense, which I really loved. Theo’s version had more of a Buñuel quality to it; just the fact that they start dancing without any music, and then music comes in. It’s certainly more apparent in his film “Blind Date.” I’m probably more of a realist, and I like to justify everything. But I didn’t want to, nor could I make the same film that Theo made. That was understood from the beginning, that his film was just a starting point and the inspiration.

So reverence was never your intention?

When I watched the original, I felt like I was witnessing the break-up of a long-standing couple. I wanted to stay true to that, and I was less concerned about getting the details and plot points [accurate]. So we changed some of that, opened it up a bit. We added the restaurant scene; that location is not in the original. We changed the age of Pierre’s daughter and the nature of how she died, and his confession about the wife is different. The beginning scene with Pierre and his brother — who is really my brother, Michael Buscemi — they were not brothers in the original, just friends. There were little things like that, and we tailored the film more towards Sienna and I, our personalities or whatever we felt we could bring to it.

Having not been familiar with Van Gogh’s films prior, what motivated you to take on this project?

I love the performances that he got out of his actors, especially in “Interview.” I was drawn to the story and these characters that are seemingly from different worlds. There’s an age difference, and they both go into [the interview] with apprehension, or even disdain. But there’s a real connection made, and I was interested in what happens to that connection once it’s made. You know, why the need to sabotage it; what is in their personalities that drives the evening the way it does. It’s very much like a play, but I didn’t want it to look like a filmed play. Judging by the original, which was cinematically and visually interesting, I wasn’t too concerned. It was daunting as actors to start with those close-ups, and sometimes it gets exhausting doing long takes. But, by and large, I really enjoyed working that way.

How do you direct when you’re constantly in front of the camera?

It’s just a feeling that you get. I mean, what better way to observe than being right in the middle of it? Nowadays, with the advent of the video playback, you can always watch what you’ve done. Sometimes we would do three or four takes in a row, and then I would check the last one. Sometimes we’d just videotape the rehearsals; it was a little different each day. If I thought something was amiss during a take, I’d watch the playback to see what didn’t feel right. Other times, I didn’t need to. I could just tell where to make an adjustment in my performance or Sienna’s. By the nature in which it was shot, with all the handheld and [multiple cameras], I was pretty comfortable that we were getting a lot of interesting angles. I had a lot of trust in Thomas Kist, the DP. But it really makes me admire what Buster Keaton and Chaplin did, all those guys who directed themselves in the days before the video playback.

Do you think it’s necessary to like a movie’s characters to appreciate them?

Yeah, I would say so. I think characters can do unlikable things, but if you don’t care about them, it can get difficult to watch. It was important for this film that both characters be intriguing and likeable on some level. But what I like about people are sometimes their unlikable traits. I like complicated, complex people who have a past.

What question do you hate most in interviews?

It used to be when people would ask me to explain my whole life. [laughs] That gets tiring after a while. There’s a line in the film where I ask Katja, “Were you always interested in acting?” and she just bangs her head on the table. That one gets kind of old.

“Interview” opens in limited release on July 13th (official site).

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.